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Tattoos and MRI Machines – The Myth Debunked

by | Nov 30, 2020 | MRI

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Modern diagnostic imaging is quick and painless, as the technologies are advanced and heavily researched to provide only the best. These advancements are why the machines cost a hefty amount of money to buy and setup, whether it is an MRI or a CT scanner. However, they are never perfect, and some individuals are not always able to use them due to various factors that play into safety and functionality. 

One thing that many people talk about is whether or not tattoos are safe for machines like MRIs. Some who are inked have reported burning or irritating sensations when MRI parts like the magnet pass by, which can be uncomfortable to deal with while in the machine. While this doesn’t always ring true for all tattooed people, there are rare cases that it does happen. Here is more about getting an MRI with a tattoo:

 

Tattoo Irritations During an MRI Scan

According to the Food and Drug Administration, there can be rare cases wherein an MRI can cause discomfort in tattooed individuals. Since the FDA controls the inks that go on people’s bodies, they have found that some inks can contain metals that are safe for skin but will be irritated by an MRI’s magnets. However, it is essential to note that this rarely happens and is a very temporary feeling. 

 

Newer Research on MRIs and Tattoos

A study in 2019 proved that most tattoo inks are safe when used for human skin. The researchers found 330 volunteers with at least one tattoo and scanned them with an MRI machine. Other volunteers had no more than five percent of their bodies covered with tattoos, and their designs had a length of around eight inches maximum. Out of almost 950 tattoos, 717 of these were made with black ink. 

Out of all of these participants, only one felt discomfort while the scan was taking place. The participant had several tattoos and felt a warm, wrapping feeling around a wrist tattoo, which disappeared shortly after stopping the scan. The person did not require medical help or assistance, which means that the overall calculated risk of feeling tattoo discomforts is around 0.17 to 0.30 percent. 

With this research, it is safe to say that tattoos are mostly safe nowadays, especially since the ink is much cleaner and uses safer ingredients. The FDA is likely warning those who have had tattoos done in the past by less reputable sources or parlors, as the inks they use can be cheap and made from unknown ingredients. 

 

How To Ensure a Safe Scan With Tattoos

Those with tattoos should always consult with their doctor before having an MRI scan. Since we now know that most patients with tattoos will not feel much, it helps to know a few things from your artist and technologist’s side.

By asking your artist about the type of ink used by the parlor, you will know if it is going to be uncomfortable for MRI use or not. Some inks used can contain cobalt and titanium dioxide that add various pigments, and others might have ferrous materials like iron that has reactive properties to MRI parts. Knowing what ink the tattoo artist will use can save you from a bad MRI experience. 

Technologists handling the MRI scan will also know what to do, and they can assist with monitoring the situation of your body with regards to anything you might feel. Letting them know if you feel side effects is essential, and they will try to make adjustments accordingly. 

Conclusion

MRI scans are very safe as a non-invasive form of diagnostic imaging, making them a prime choice for anyone who requires an internal scan. While those with tattoos have been reported to be at risk for scan discomfort, newer studies have shown that this incidence is rare. If anything seems unclear, it is best to consult with the technologists and doctors behind your diagnosis and even your tattoo artist to know the type of ink used. 

DirectMed Parts is the premium source of MRI and CT Scan replacement parts in the USA. We carry a wide range of items for various brands, putting your machine in good hands with us. Contact us to learn more about what components you may need for your MRI or CT scanners. 

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